Rick Springfield doesn’t mince words when it comes to his lifelong battle with depression.
“Being alive’s a struggle, honestly,” he told PEOPLE recently during a candid interview at his Malibu home. “I’m happy I’m alive when I’m happy I’m alive.”
The “Jessie’s Girl” singer — who shot to fame in the ’80s and became a heartthrob after a stint on General Hospital — says his depression hit as soon as puberty started.
“I suddenly started feeling really insignificant and useless and unpopular. It was just something that was stirred in me that I could never really put my finger on. I ended up staying home from school because I couldn’t face it,” says the Australian-born star, who sings about his darkest times in “Suicide Manifesto” (off his new album The Snake King). “I really just hated being in my own skin.”
At just 16 years old, Springfield had a failed suicide attempt when he tried hanging himself but the rope broke. “That was not the era,” he says of the stigma those suffering from mental illness faced when he was growing up. “You didn’t talk about that kind of stuff.”
In 1985 at the height of his fame, the entertainer suddenly stepped away from the spotlight to raise his newborn son Liam — and work on his mental health.
“I thought fame and success would heal me. I achieved it and it didn’t help. That was shattering to me,” he says. “I just pulled the plug and started going to therapy in lieu of basically shooting myself.”
Springfield —who has been married to his wife Barbara Porter, 56, for 33 years — says his family, including Liam, 32, and his younger son Josh, 28, help him remain thankful for his life.
“It’s like your heart beating. It’s something that’s there. I’m always aware of my family, absolutely, and the love that we have,” he says. “Being grateful is very important to trying to combat depression.”
For more on Springfield’s battle with depression, his new album and life now with Porter, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
Taking things day by day, Springfield hopes to one day forgive himself for his past mistakes and enjoy life a bit more with his loved ones.
“I look back on my regrets with great relish and my successes, not so much,” says the singer, who wrote about his multiple infidelities in his 2010 memoir Late, Late at Night. “In the end I’m always trying to prove my worth to myself which is what depression is all about.”
Some of his happiest days now are spending time at home with Porter, and Springfield says he looks forward to being a better man for her.
“You get together with someone to change bad behavior and improve your spirit, and she has really been that person for me,” he says. “I’m thankful she’s hung in there ’cause I’ve certainly given her reason not to.”
RELATED VIDEO: Rick Springfield Reveals He Is Still Struggling with Depression and Recently Considered Suicide
Over the three decades they’ve been together, “we’ve gone to therapists a couple of times saying we want a divorce,” he says. But in the end, the pair know they are meant to be.
“We’ve always ended up just realizing we really love each other, and that’s really the only way not to get divorced is to not get divorced,” he says. “We still argue and have issues, but when we’re at our best, we’re at our very best.”